After 600 days in sanctuary at the Mancos United Methodist Church, Rosa Sabido said she needs an answer.
Days before a vigil on Saturday, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton denied Sabido’s request for the lawmaker to sponsor a private bill to provide a path to permanent residency for the Mexican national who has lived and worked in Cortez for 30 years.
“I am not ready to give up,” Sabido said in an interview. “I am here to stay and fight until the end, until I exhaust every single opportunity.”
In May 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement informed Sabido that her application for a one-year stay of removal was denied. She was ordered to leave the country or face deportation. Instead, she sought sanctuary at the United Methodist Church.
With a denial from Tipton, Sabido said her only other option to living legally in the United States is to petition another legislator to sponsor a private bill. She said she may have to wait until the end of the year or until the next election.
“I need some action on their behalf,” Sabido said.
The past 600 days have not been easy, she said. She lives in an enclosed space with uncertainty, she said. She isn’t free, she can’t take care of herself, she can’t be a productive member of society, she left her “real life” behind, and now almost every day is the same.
“I am living in a very challenging time and just trying to get through,” Sabido said to about 30 people at the United Methodist Church on Saturday.
“It’s just through you that I am remaining strong,” she said.
Tipton’s office in Durango did not respond to a phone call on Friday seeking comment on the denial. Mancos United Methodist Church Pastor Craig Paschal said a staffer informed him that Tipton would not sponsor a private bill but would continue to support her in other ways.
Paschal said a private bill, which he described as an “extreme long shot,” is the only legal path forward for Sabido. He said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is supportive, and Sabido and her supporters will continue to petition their legislators.
During the vigil, held the day after International Women’s Day, several Mancos residents spoke of inspiring stories from history of their personal lives while others expressed love for Sabido and frustration with the country’s immigration policy and debate.
Mancos resident Jaime Becktel said she grew up just north of the U.S.-Mexico border in a town interwoven with the Hispanic community. She said it’s unfathomable to her why we’re still dealing with “this stuff” and is hard to believe that the system is this dysfunctional.
“I am envisioning a resolution for you so that we can go for a walk in the mountains,” Becktel said.
Philip Walters, of Mancos, said he used to fish on the Rio Grande when he lived in Texas. If he couldn’t catch any fish from the U.S. side, he said he would wade to the Mexico side. It didn’t matter much to him, he said. The border is just a river.
“How do we get people to let go of their fear and open their eyes and see that both sides of the river are the same?” Walters said.
Like Becktel, he said he often wishes he could bring Sabido with him when he sees the beauty of nature. But Sabido cannot leave her sanctuary.
“I am so sorry for what we collectively have allowed to happen,” Walters said.